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Ancient House celebrates Festival of Thetford & Punjab

Ancient House Museum, Thetford will be joining in the Festival of Thetford & Punjab with a fantastic weekend of free events and activities on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 July.

The Festival of Thetford & Punjab – which is led by the Essex Cultural Diversity Partnership – takes place in venues across Thetford and is a weekend of cultural celebrations inspired by the life and legacy of the Duleep Singh family, the last Royal Family of the Punjab who lived at Elveden Hall in Norfolk.

Ancient House Museum, which was gifted to the town by Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, the son of the Maharajah Duleep Singh, will host two special family event days.

On Saturday 8 July in ‘Fighting the First and Second World Wars’ visitors can meet costumed characters to find out about the British and Indian servicemen commemorated at Thetford Cemetery. Learn about life in the army and make your own badge to take home. Meet a Red Cross Nurse and learn about Princess Sophia Duleep Singh’s work during the First World War. Visitors can also enjoy a pop-up exhibition about Maharajah Duleep Singh which presents photographic images, archival documents, cartoons and text to tell the real story of ‘The Black Prince’.

Ancient House Teenage History Club have been working the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to research the lives of the soldiers remembered with a Commonwealth War Grave at Thetford Cemetery. Through family friendly tours the young people will share the stories of the people behind the graves including local lads from Thetford, a Canadian pilot and Indian servicemen who died at the rest camps near Thetford at the end of the Second World War.

Over at Thetford Library teenagers can use pictures to tell the stories of Thetford’s wartime heroes in Zine making workshops. Participants will cut, stick, draw and stencil pictures and words to make a mini comic book called a ‘zine’! Choose a name of a serviceman from Thetford’s War Memorial and find out their heroic story from our easy research. Then turn that story into a zine using pictures and stencils- or draw your own! You can take it home or leave it in the library for others to enjoy. All materials provided- just bring your creativity! Copies of the zines will become part of a new project from Kick the Dust and Norfolk Libraries.

On Sunday 9 July the museum is putting on a ‘Duleep Singh Family Day’. Join the laundry maid at Elveden Hall and help her with the washing and meet a member of the Bengal Horse Artillery. In addition, exhibitions on Princess Sophia Duleep Singh and Princess Catherine Duleep Singh, the Maharajah’s two extraordinary daughters, will be available to enjoy.

The museum is also hosting a talk by Sikh historian Gurinder Singh Man on Maharajah Duleep Singh and the Koh-i-noor Diamond. The 2pm slot is already sold out but there are spaces on for 11am.

On the same day there will be Mela On the Green featuring the Dhol Enforcement Agency, Circus Raj, the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band, Virsa Punjab Bhangra Dancers, Sikh martial arts from the Baba Fateh Singh Gatka Akhara, and a Bhangra DJ, all framed by Kinetika’s beautiful Silk River Flags. With food, Henna Art and heritage stalls.

On both days visitors will also be able to take a deeper dive into Sikh culture and explore Anglo-Sikh relics using the Anglo Sikh Virtual Museum, a touch screen from the Sikh Museum Initiative. This amazing interactive digital exhibition brings together for the first time Sikh artefacts from collections around the world for all to explore and handle digitally through a large plasma screen. Relics include the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond, Sikh armour and swords, manuscripts, medals and flags.

The weekend also offers the opportunity for visitors to see an important new acquisition which has recently gone on display at Ancient House – a walking stick which was owned by the Maharajah Duleep Singh and presented to him by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII (1841-1910). The walking stick joins other stories, displays and artefacts relating to the Duleep Singh Family in the Museum’s permanent collections.